Today marks International Men’s Day and as the theme this year is role models, we want to raise awareness, and recognise, an individual that is pivotal to his club and community.
Mark Frost, of Ilkeston Town Juniors, was nominated as that individual, and he’s described as being a “true grassroots hero” and someone who “works tirelessly” to do anything he needs to do for his club.
With that high praise, we thought we would talk to the man himself, as well as those that know him, to find out more about such a well-respected man, who lists his club roles as Chairman, Secretary, Groundsman, Kit Man, Referee, Taxi Driver and even Santa Claus.
What inspired you to get involved with the club?
I am a very proud Ilkestonian and can say I was born, educated and still live in my birth town of Ilkeston. I have always had a passion for football and I’m a Grade A organiser, so when the opportunity came along with Ilkeston I was ready for this new challenge.
I had been Chair of governors at a local school and was aware of the high deprivation factor the town attracts, I was certain that through the right guidance, we could continue to provide an excellent platform for our children and grow the game. I was ready for a new challenge and was certain that I could provide a stable, prosperous and a safe environment for the amazing children of Ilkeston.
I was confident that by improving facilities and standards we could deliver a better provision for our children; hopefully my record during my tenure has proven this. I’ve got to say, I haven’t regretted a single day.
I would also like to thank Keven Lowe, our vice chair, for all his help and continued support. Kev working with you has been an honour and I value our friendship.
How long have you been at the club and what has been your greatest achievement?
I’ve been at the club for 8 years – since my youngest son started with the Mini Robins.
I have so many [achievements with the club], but my personal favourite has to be uniting the club. We had several teams, but no club. Now we all know each other and frequently talk as Ilkeston, one big happy family.
Other highlights include being named DCFA Volunteer of the Year 2017 and writing our own club ethos. It’s early days but things are going well with our amalgamation with Ilkeston Town, longevity would be a massive plus for the town.
As you’ve been mentioned as a role model to others, who is your football role model?
I have so many, but growing up I had the honour of watching the late Ken O’Connor give a lifetime of volunteering to West Hallam and the pitches on Beech Lane. Come rain or shine Ken was always there tending to the pitches and the changing rooms.
I can always remember the changing rooms still having glass in the windows, even in the 90’s. Tom Curtis, ex Derby and Chesterfield, once broke a window and out of respect we all went to Ken’s to apologize. We were probably 18 or 19 at the time. The respect Ken had earned with us all from his work that he did for us, for nothing, was always something I wanted to replicate.
Ken gave his life to those pitches and was sadly missed when he died, and within weeks, the windows had been smashed and the changing rooms vandalised. If I can deliver only a fraction of what Ken gave back to his community then I will be one very proud man.
Through talking to Mark you can tell he is a very passionate man, who cares deeply about his club, but what do others think of him?
Earl Taylor, an FA Coach Mentor, spoke highly of Mark, saying “Mark works tirelessly for Ilkeston juniors in all departments! He supports all the coaches and keeps in regular contact, making sure they have everything they need. From pitches, players and parents, Mark is fully committed to be the best he can for Ilkeston Juniors. A larger than life character who puts everyone and everything before himself, and a true grassroots hero.”
Cath Morton, County Welfare & Respect Officer at Derbyshire FA, said “Mark works tirelessly for his club in a number of administrative and coaching roles to ensure children are able to play football in a safe environment. Mark takes on secretarial and coaching duties and also takes a lead on rolling out Respect and complying with safeguarding.”
Keven Lowe, Vice Chair of Ilkeston Town Juniors, said “Mark Frost is a good role model due to his selfless hard work and always putting others first. His never ending voluntary work is the glue that holds Ilkeston Juniors together. Without Mark it is debatable if the club would continue; he really is an inspiration and a brilliant role model.”
Following all the positive messages, Mark seems to be a great fit at Ilkeston Town Juniors, and of course, an inspirational individual for grassroots football in Derbyshire. With that in mind, we want to know, does he have any advice for others looking to follow in his footsteps?
“Embrace it, enjoy it and continue to learn. Some days you will feel dejected, worthless and question why you are involved, but when you have any doubts, take a look at the smiles you provide and all the heart ache is insignificant.
“If it wasn’t for you then these amazing children wouldn’t be playing the beautiful game that we all love so much. The one piece of advice I would give, is try not to take everything personally and acknowledge that sometimes you just have to accept that things don’t always go your way; BUT NEVER STOP CARING.”